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Anti-hunting video spawns hunter#039;s festival

Some things just don't work out the way people think they might. Prior to a concert starring former Beatle Paul McCartney in Atlanta about 10 years ago, the audience was shown a video promoting animal rights. But, sitting in the audience was Jackie Bushman, founder and CEO of the world's largest white-tailed deer hunting association and host of the popular Buckmasters TV series on TNN.

"I'm a Beatles fan," Bushman says, "and I enjoyed the concert, but I was offended that the audience was shown a video that portrayed hunters in an incorrect and bad light. I left after the concert determined to do something about it."

Indeed, he has.

Bushman's answer to that five-minute video is the Buckmasters Expo --

the nation's premier consumer show and festival celebrating the hunting traditions and hunters' contributions to conservation and the environment.

The ninth annual event, August 16-18 at the Montgomery Civic Center and Riverfront Park, is expected to attract

more than 40,000 outdoorsmen from throughout the nation.

"When people leave the Expo," Bushman says, "we want them to leave with a better understanding of hunting and the important role hunters play in conservation.

"We want them to know that the overwhelming majority of funding for wildlife conservation is provided by America's hunters. They do it by buying hunting licenses and by paying excise taxes under the federal Pittman-Robertson Act, when they buy hunting-related items. The taxes are funneled back to state agencies for programs that benefit all wildlife from deer to bluebirds.

"People who come to the Buckmasters Expo may not all be hunters and all the kids may not grow up and go hunting, but when they vote, we want them to support hunting and to know why they do."

The three-day event treats visitors to bargain shopping among the latest hunting supplies, services, and equipment that fill every nook and cranny of the Civic Center.

Then there is the Buckmasters Top Bow Indoor World Championship archery competition; hunter education classes; archery; airgun shooting with the USA Olympic Shooting Team; and knife making and usage demonstrations by Jerry Fisk -- who was named a "National Living Treasure" in 1999. Other activities include

bass boat rides, carving instruction, and vine basket-making.

One of the most popular areas is the Young Bucks Outdoors center. It entertains kids with a variety of outdoor activities while they learn about safety and the environment. They even get to make a free bird feeders.

While the event is open to the public, a free Buckmasters members-only concert features country music star Clay Walker.

Throughout history, hunters have fed others. Buckmasters carries on that tradition -- admission cost is one can of food or $1 per person for the Montgomery Area Food Bank. Last year, attendees contributed approximately 18.5 tons of canned food and $3,948 in cash.